Nahan and Bareshnum rituals

The Nahan

It is a purificatory ritual. The word Nahan comes from the Sanskrit word

Snān “bath.” It is a ceremonial bath given at particular times like before Navjot, Wedding, to the spouse of a deceased man before the Uthamna, after the 40 days seclusion after child birth, or at any other time when ritual purification is required.

In the past there were two types of Nahan, th

e Sāde (lit. simple) nahan which is presently done, and the Shishyu (from Persian si-shoy “three baths”) nahan in which the purification was done thrice with sand, consecrated water and nirang. The nahan was generally administered by a priest having the power of a Bareshnum. In the present times this requirement is not deemed necessary.

The following are the requirements for a Nahan: 1. Nirang, 2. Taro, 3. A few Pomegranate leaves, 4. Two small metallic bowls (fuliyu), 5. A white handkerchief

The priest performs Padyab-Kushti and washes a small metallic bowl. After drying the bowl, Nirang is poured into it. A set of ordinary washed clothes are placed in the bathroom. The celebrant performs the Padyab-e-kushti and the Mobed makes him/her pray as under:

Ba name yazade, bakhshayandeh bakhshayazeshgar meherban Hormazd Khodae itha at Yazamaide Ahurem Mazdam, ye gamcha ashemcha dat apascha dat urvaraoscha vanguhish, raochaoscha dat bumimcha, vispacha vohu. Ashem Vohu 3.

After recital of this prayer, the priest places 3 to 5 tender pomegranate leaves on a white handkerchief in the right hand of the celebrant, who then chews the leaves and spits off the residue. The celebrant is then instructed to drink 3 sips of Nirang from the fuliyu, handed to the celebrant on the white handkerchief. Before drinking each time, the celebrant recites in a suppressed tone the following line: In khurram in paki-e-tan, yaozdathri-e-ravan ra. Thereafter, the celebrant completes the Baj with the following prayers:

Ashem Vohu 4, Yatha Ahu Vairyo 2, Ashem Vohu 1.

Ahmai Raeshcha, Hazangrem, Jasa me Avanghe Mazda, Kerfeh Mozd

After finishing the prayers, the celebrant performs the Kushti ritual without reciting the Kem na Mazda.

After this, the celebrant enters the bathing place and recites Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao. Ashem Vohu 1.

The celebrant undresses, removes the Sudreh and Kushti, places his right hand over the head and recites:

Yatha Ahu Vairyo 5, Ashem Vohu 3, Fravarane Mazdayasno

Zrathushtrish vidaevo Ahuratkaesho (Recite the appropriate Geh)

Sraoshahe ashyehe takhmahe tanu-manthrahe, darshi-draosh ahuiryehe, khshnaothra yasnaicha vahmaicha khshnaothraicha frasastayaecha, yatha Ahu Vairyo zaota fra-me mrute, atha ratush ashat chit hacha fra ashava vidhvao mraotu.

Ahunem vairim tanum paiti (3 times) Yatha Ahu Vairyo 1

Kem-nā Mazdā, mavaite pāyum dadat, hyat mā dregvāo didareshatā aenanghe anyem thwahmāt āthrascha mananghaschā, yayāo shyaothnāish ashem thraoshtā Ahurā, tām moi dāstvām daenayāi frāvaochā.

Ke verethrem jā, thwā poi senghā, yoi henti chithra moi, dām ahumbish ratum chizhdi, at hoi vohu seraosho jantu mananghā, Mazdā ahmāi yahmāi vashi kahmāichit.

Pāta -no tbishyantat pairi Mazdāoscha Ārmaitishchā spentaschā, nase daevi drukhsh, nase daevo chithre, nase daevo-frakarshte, nase daevo-fradāite, apa drukhsh nase, apa drukhsh dvāra, apa drukhsh vinase, apakhedhre apa-nasyehe, mā merenchainish gaethāo astvaitish ashahe.

In the present times since the celebrant is not able to recite the prayers on own, the priest guides him/her through the above prayers and then he/she undresses.

The celebrant then applies taro over his or her body from head downward, ritually cleansing contamination and impurity from the body.

The celebrant then takes the bath and after drying himself, puts on clean clothes, including the Sudreh and prayer cap. He then places his Kushti over the shoulders and completes the Baj of bath as under:

Nemaschā yā Ārmaitish izhāchā (3 times), Yatha Ahu Vairyo 2

Yasnemcha vahmecha aojascha zavarecha afrinami Sraoshahe ashyehe takhmahe tanu-manthrahe, darshi-draosh ahuiryehe. Ashem vohu 1.

Ahmai Raeshcha, Hazangrem, Jasa me Avanghe Mazda, Kerfeh Mozd

The celebrant then prays the Hormazd Khoday and reties the Kushti and completes the ritual with the Jasa me avanghe Mazda prayer.

He then washes his hands and face performs the entire Kushti ritual.

Thereafter the celebrant does the Sarosh Baj and Geh and recites the Patet Pashemani. If the celebrant is unable to do so, the priest may pray it on the celebrant’s behalf. In such a case, while the priest is praying the Patet, the celebrant repeatedly prays the Ahunavar. This completes the Nahan Ritual.

The Bareshnum

The Bareshnum is the highest purificatory ritual of the Zoroastrians. It is also referred to as the Bareshnum-i-noh-shab ‘the Bareshnum of nine nights’, which is the period of time it takes for the ritual to complete.

The word Bareshnum is derived from the Avesta word bareshna “top, head” since the cleansing starts from the head and moves downwards. Till about a hundred years ago, the Bareshnum ceremony was undergone by both Behdins (including women) as well as priests, but today it is confined solely to the priestly class.

The Bareshnum is the foundation of all inner Zoroastrian rituals, since no inner ritual can be done unless the Priest holds the power of the Bareshnum. The priestly initiations of Navar and Maratab begin with the Bareshnums – two for the former (three in case of the Kadimis) and one for the latter. The bareshnum is also required for priests who perform the Nirangdin ritual. Without the Nirangdin there can be no consecrated Nirang, which is central to all Zoroastrian rituals.

The injunction for the Bareshnum can be gleaned in the ninth Pargarad (chapter) of the Vendidad. This chapter deals with five issues – the procedure of administering the Bareshnum; the capabilities of a Bareshnum holder; the benefits of giving the Bareshnum correctly; the dangers of giving Bareshnum incorrectly; the methods of containing the pollution caused by the vitiating a Bareshnum and the punishment for those who vitiate a Bareshnum.

The following are necessary for administering a Bareshnum:

  1. 2 Priests, having the power of Bareshnum.
  2. 1 dog
  3. The consecrated Nirang, from the Nirangdinceremony
  4. The consecrated Av (water), from the Nirangdin ceremony
  5. The sacred Bhasam (ash) from the AtashBehram fire
  6. A few pomegranate leaves
  7. 2 small metallic bowls (fulia)
  8. 2 metallic pots (kaharna) of well water
  9. 2 Navgrehs (sacred stick having nine knots). The small Navgreh (about 2 feet long) has a metal spoon tied to its end. The long Navgreh (about 7 feet long) has an iron nail or an iron knife blade tied to its end.

The place where the Bareshnum is administered is known as the Bareshnum-gah. This is an open ground, covered with sand, approximately 50 feet long and about 40 feet wide. Generally but not invariably, the Bareshnum-gah is attached to the fire temple premises itself.

The main feature of the Bareshnum gah are sets of five stones and three stones, known as the pahadias, placed at various intervals running west to east.

The Bareshnum is given in the Havan gah (morning). Two priests who are to give the Bareshnum to the candidate perform a Yasna ceremony and prepare themselves for the task. They themselves are holders of the power of Bareshnum. Thereafter they go to the Bareshnum gah carrying the implements as given above.

Both priests perform the padyavkusti. One of the priest goes to the south east corner of the Bareshnum gah and using the long Navgreh with the nail at its end, traces the outline of a rectangular pavi. The pavi is a spiritual boundary inside which no pollution can enter. Then he makes four divisions of that rectangle in which he places the fulia, kaharna, the Navgreh, the Nirang, Av and Bhasam.

Meanwhile the candidate for the Bareshnum comes to the Bareshnum gah, performs padyav-kusti and sits near the pavi. After a very elaborate ritual which includes crossing of stone paharia, applying of Nirang, sand and consecrated water and touching the left ear of dog, the candidate completes the Bareshnum by reciting the Kusti with the Hormazd Khodae prayer.

After the Bareshnum is administered, the candidate goes to stay in a special room called ‘nahnkhanehs’ which are attached to the fire temple. Here he will spend the next nine days and nights in seclusion, when he is not allowed to touch anybody. Contact with wooden items is also prohibited. he has to devote time to reciting prayers in every gah of the day.

Two sets of plain white clothes are worn – one set is used only while eating, whereas the other set is used for the rest of the period. Contact with water is strictly prohibited, except for drinking. Even after going to the toilet, small clay stones are used instead of water.

All meals are taken only in daylight. Even drinking water is prohibited during the night. Food is served by other people in metal vessels and is eaten with a metal spoon, wearing hand gloves. A coir stuffed leather mattress is used for sleeping, and a square leather mat is used for sitting. No nocturnal emission should take place, or else the Bareshnum is vitiated.

On the fourth, seventh and tenth day, in the morning, a special bath called Navsho is given to the candidate by one of the priests who had given the Bareshnum. This bath is just the poring of a potful of water on the candidate after certain prayers and after applying of Nirang, sand and consecrated water.

The Bareshnum is completed on the morning of the 10th day after the Navsho bath.